Cricket: Perfect 10 again for the Mad Dog of Hertfordshire

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
TIME FOR a moment to escape all the horror stories surrounding the game - some are born mediocre, some have it thrust upon them by a baying media - and reflect that it still contains significant triumphs. First, the implausible but wonderful tale of Paul O'Reilly, a bowler, ex- goalkeeper, restorer of character properties and former disc jockey once known as Mad Dog.

Last Sunday, O'Reilly, who insists he has not been known as Mad Dog for years, took all 10 wickets while bowling for Hertfordshire in a Minor Counties Championship match against Staffordshire. This was a highly impressive feat by any standards since it has been achieved only 54 times this century in first-class cricket and nobody had ever achieved it before for Hertfordshire.

Last Sunday, 25 July 1999, was also a year to the day since O'Reilly first took 10 wickets in an innings. On 25 July 1998, he did so while playing for Langleybury in a Hertfordshire League match against Knebworth Park. "The lads are talking about arranging a special game for me on 25 July 2000," O'Reilly said.

He had figures last Sunday of 17.1-6-38-10. Of his wickets three were bowled, five were caught behind the wicket by keeper or slips, one was caught at square leg and the final, crucial dismissal was lbw. "Plumb," said O'Reilly, "but after I'd taken nine there was an over in between where a ball went to leg slip in the air and another was scooped over extra cover."

Conditions suited his medium- pace away swing, bowled, naggingly, just short of length, but it was hardly a bowling paradise. Herts had made 227 for two in their first innings. "I knew I was getting some swing and I wanted to put them in two minds," he said. "It worked almost every time. It was more satisfying than the last 10-for because this was against better players. But for it to happen twice is spooky."

Taking 10 wickets in an innings twice (first-class bowlers to achieve it include Hedley Verity, Jim Laker and Tich Freeman, who did it three times) is not O'Reilly's sole claim to sporting fame. He was also a respected non-league goalkeeper who played for Hayes when they beat Fulham 2-0 in the FA Cup and was part of the Aylesbury side which invented the Duck Walk to celebrate their goals during their 1995 FA Cup run. Their sequence ended when they were beaten 4-0 at Loftus Road in front of a crowd of 17,000. As Les Ferdinand slipped past O'Reilly to score a goal, he said: "Bye, bye keeper." "Cricket's my main game now I'm getting on and I'm better now than ever. But this season a lot of my improvement is down to the new county coach Alan Ormrod who has spotted so many little things and worked with me." Ormrod, of course, is the coach Nottinghamshire sacked last year.

O'Reilly, who was dubbed Mad Dog by the hypnotist Paul McKenna, then a fellow DJ at Chiltern Radio, took only one wicket in the second innings but Hertfordshire held on to win by three runs as Staffs failed by three runs to attain a target of 332.

THERE WAS another star apart from Mad Dog O'Reilly in the match between Herts and Staffs. Former Surrey batsman David Ward made a century in each innings. He had already made a hundred for his club on the Saturday which made it three separate three-figure scores, 151, 104 and 122 on consecutive days.

WHAT A pleasure it was to be at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, on Wednesday. All around there was evidence of a sport in good health. Glamorgan might have ailed on the day, never quite recovering from the decision to insert Gloucestershire in the NatWest Trophy quarter-final but they were supported by a fervent, devoted crowd.

"They're worth 20 to 30 runs an innings," said the Glamorgan captain, Matthew Maynard, which was not quite enough since they lost by 138 runs. But what really caught the eye came during the mid-innings break when so many outfields are out of bounds to crowds now. Not at Sophia, where at least 37 impromptu games of cricket were taking place - average age of combatants was about 20 because some were 60 years old and some were 10.

BOOK MARK

"At the end of an unexceptional opening day, they had scored 232 for 3; Barrington 61no in more than three hours. The murmurs of disapproval which greeted this effort had turned to howls of anguish by the following evening, for although Barrington may have scored his 13th century for England, the manner in which it was composed and the time it took to complete was considered inexcusable... the following Sunday [the selectors] duly dropped him for Lord's justifying their decision for the good of cricket." - From England Expects, a biography of Ken Barrington by Mark Peel, explaining the decision to drop him in the series against New Zealand in 1965 after he scored 137 too slowly for the selectors' liking, and serving to remind us that they were able do that then.

DON'T STOP THE CARNIVAL

THE WORLD CUP never truly started for the man tipped its biggest star. Sachin Tendulkar scored one scintillating hundred against Kenya but was otherwise disappointing. His father died during the tournament. Last week, smashin' Sachin was appointed for the second time to be captain of India. Meanwhile, Asif Karim, Kenya's captain, who watched as Tendulkar slaughtered his attack at Bristol - his 22nd one-day hundred - has decided to retire from international cricket. The two events are not related.

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